One of the (really, really, really) nice things about our civil ceremony was getting to customize the script to suit us. Our registrar emailed us a couple of PDFs, one a sample ceremony with the parts we couldn't change in bold (the registrar identifying herself, the legal definition of a marriage, identifying ourselves and our being free to marry) but most of it could be anything we wanted. The second PDF was a selection of alternate texts for the vows and optional handfasting. A third PDF was optional readings of a non-religious nature (the one restriction for a civil ceremony is that it can't be religious, though the readings included the famous Corinthians passage without attribution and a few Native American blessings, quotes from Confucius, and other things that made me question their definition of "religion") though we never got around to picking any of those so we went without. Minus the legal parts, our ceremony follows:
Your decision to marry is an expression of your love for each other, your faith in your future together and a sign of your commitment to one another. Marriage means developing and maintaining affection, co-operation, friendship and mutual respect. It calls for honesty, patience, trust and humour. Marriage requires both closeness and distance, the closeness of a couple growing together and sufficient distance to allow each other to grow as an individual.
Chris/Jennifer, do you promise that you will always protect Jennifer/Chris with your utmost care that you will honour and cherish her/him in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer and in all things you will be to her/him a faithful loving husband/wife?
Traditionally, the passage to the status of husband and wife is marked by the exchange of rings. These rings are a symbol of the unbroken circle of love. Love freely given has no beginning and no end, no giver and no receiver for each is the giver and each is the receiver. May these rings always remind you of the declarations you have made to each other.
I give you this ring as a token of my love, wear it always and when we are apart, look upon it and know I am with you, let it be a symbol of our marriage and of the vows we have made today.
These rings have been given and received as a symbol of your love and commitment to one another; however, it is the solemn vows which you have made that will join you together for life.
In some ways tomorrow is going to seem no different than today, but today you have given and received one of the most valuable gifts of life, the gift of true and abiding love within the devotion of marriage. If there is one thing you remember from today, let it be that it was love that brought you here, love which holds you together and love by which your marriage will endure.
Today you have chosen each other as life partners.
Do you vow to be a faithful husband and wife to each other?
Do you promise to walk by each other’s side, to love, help and encourage each other, to listen and to care?
Do you promise to always respect and honour each other as individuals and to be conscious of eachother’s needs?
I give myself to you as I am and as I will be for all of my life. Whatever may come I will always be there and as I give you my hand to hold so I give you my life to keep.
The knots of this binding are not formed by this cloth but instead by your vows. Either of you may drop the cloth now, for as always you hold in your own hands the making of this union.
Today, you have also given and received one of the most valuable gifts - the gift of true and abiding love within the devotion of marriage. If there is one thing you remember from today let it be that it was love that brought you here, love which holds you together and love by which your marriage will endure.
From this day, let your marriage be a partnership, created for your mutual happiness. May the love with which you have joined hands and hearts today never fail, but grow deeper and stronger with the passing years.
There must have been a veritable dust storm in that little room, judging by the number of people who reported that they, or the person sitting next to them, had something in their eye.